You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

WA prescribed burns not meeting targets

AAP logoAAP 27/09/2016 Rebecca Gredley

Western Australia has failed to meet its prescribed controlled burn targets every year since 2009 due to weather and population growth near burn areas, says WA Environment Minister Albert Jacob.

The Department of Parks and Wildlife annual report reveals that the average area subject to annual controlled burns in the South West has decreased more than 70 per cent in the past 50 years.

In the same time, uncontrolled fires burnt nearly as much land.

"If it is a wet autumn or if it is a wet spring, you're limited in the burning you can do," he told ABC Radio.

"That window of opportunity is lessening every year, that's a direct result of the changing climate here, it's a direct result of the declining rainfall within the South West as well," he said.

The report also said that employees in frontline fire management had reduced from 530 in the mid-1980s to 290 in 2015.

The Labor opposition's emergency services spokeswoman Margaret Quirk said that with lower staff numbers there must be a succession plan to ensure that knowledge of habitats where fires occur remains with employees.

"As more experienced staff go ... that knowledge and that experience is leaving the department," she told AAP.

Australian Worker's Union secretary Mike Zoetbrood said that the biggest issue for frontline firefighters was the length of their shifts, which can be up to 24-30 hours as there were no staff to take over.

"This is unheard of in other industries and is a recipe for disaster," he said.

"There are not enough people. While volunteers do a great job, we're finding it happens more and more often.

"It takes time, part of the challenge is to get seasonal workers to come back for the second and third year."

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon